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How to: make your event an investment, not a cost

DRPG managing director Dale Parmenter explains how measuring event metrics will ensure every event is an investment, not a cost…

The feared statement ‘I can’t afford to run the event’, usually stems from not measuring an event’s effectiveness and basing it on an isolated cost with no return. Without the evidence of return, it’s hard to justify an event’s purpose for an organisation.

Dale Parmenter

Unfortunately, the fact that the three-course dinner was delicious, the keynote speaker was a smash-hit, and the CEO thought the whole thing was great won’t provide you with the solid justification that an event was needed.

We need to move away from the focus on ‘cost’ to a view of ‘investment’, so when you’re looking at making cuts to a communications or events budgets, you have the tools and evidence to show whether, in fact, ‘I can’t afford not to run the event’.

Setting the outcome

To get to the desired outcome for an event, it’s crucial to establish the situation or problem that an organisation is facing and what is the need for the event?

Our first question to any prospective client brief is ‘why?’.

The problems are easily identifiable on the surface but not always supported by solid evidence. Before entering the event planning stage, organisations need something tangible to measure the event’s outcome and results.

As an example, a recent survey within an organisation has proven that morale is down, employee turnover is rising, and productivity is declining.

The first things we would need to assess would be the root cause and the specific demographic of the organisation that is affected. Identifying the full impact can be done in multiple ways, from opinion-led pulse checks, engagement surveys, and focus groups, or there could be figurative data we could measure, such as sales margins, recruitment costs, or retention figures.

The situation should then be linked to the correct groups, whether it’s every department, the leadership team, or front-line services; it’s important to know who we’ll be targeting to determine the style of communication that is required within the upcoming solution and event content.

Finding the solution

Once the problem is highlighted along with the correct group to be communicating with, we can then begin to work on the solution, what we want to achieve, and what it may look like as an event. Putting benchmarks in place and determining whether we will be measuring the event as a return on investment or return on engagement, or indeed, both.

When it comes to ROI, whether increasing sales, productivity or retention of workforces, we are measuring what the audience physically do and the financial benefits that are generated following these actions. By measuring what the audience do and not what they say, the return is tangible and easy to put KPIs and benchmarks against, however these measures and the desired outcome must be in place before we start planning the event or piece of communication.

ROE, on the other hand, is how the audience feel. Of course, we want the audience to retain the content, but it can be more than that. For example, at an awards event, we obviously want cheering and applause but ultimately the planned outcome would be the audience feeling inspired to contribute and be motivated to win an award on the same stage, the following year.

Behavioural change

This is the point where we can start looking at content and event methods to be the catalyst for the agreed outcome. Whether the target group require a team-building activity, or to purely retain important content, it’s about the people in the room and what we need them to either do or feel:

  1. Outcome – What do we need to achieve?
  2. Actions – What do we want the audience to do?
  3. Influence – Is it in the power of the audience to do what we want?

Imagine a supermarket’s financial director going out to their shop floor teams on a roadshow declaring they want to boost group sales by £6m in the next 12 months. If that message was delivered in isolation, the audience aren’t equipped to support the organisation’s desired outcome. However, by putting a simple action to each member of the audience, for example, ‘to encourage all customers to add 50p spend to their basket’, we now have a clear benchmark set for a return on investment and a clear message on what they need to do.

Can we trust our data?

A total 88 per cent of all statistics are made up or fabricated, including this one. So, how can we trust the data that we’re collecting?

We see plenty of engagement surveys and reports following events, especially when looking at hybrid and virtual events over the past 18-months with specific interaction on exhibition stands, auditoriums and videos within the back-end of digital environments.

However, if the delegates don’t do anything following their interactions with this media and messaging then the event or specific activation remains as a standalone cost with some clickthrough rates. With the correct benchmarks set out from the beginning and a requirement for the audience to do something thereafter, it then becomes profitable and the data can be used to determine a change in behaviour.

We must change perception from an event being an isolated cost to an investment, so if you think your event will be costing you money, you shouldn’t be questioning it. Instead follow the crucial measuring steps to ensure the event will be an investment for your organisation and that you’re going to get a return from it.

Put simply…

  • Establish the Outcome
  • Understand the Why
  • Who is the Audience
  • What can we Measure
  • Where’s the Data coming from
  • Set the Benchmarks
  • Implement the Solution
  • Take Action
  • See the Behaviour change
  • Measure ROI & ROE

Change perception of Cost to Investment.

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